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Article published February 4, 2013
Wrong on Woodlands
Michael Bagdes-CanningCherry Valley
I’ve known Butler County Commissioner Jim Eckstein since 2004. During that time I’ve had plenty of reasons to respect him. Now, as a result of comments he made during the commissioners meeting of Jan. 23, he has lost some of that respect. If I were robbed and something valuable was stolen from me, I would be devastated. If there was evidence pointing to a perpetrator, I certainly would hope the state would pursue that evidence. Knowing that sometimes justice moves slowly, I might show frustration when the implicated perpetrator is feted and I’m still without something I valued. But I know I would be furious if government officials then worked out a plan where I have to pay for my valued possession and the perpetrator is praised. In an insulting and ill-conceived statement following testimony of several affected residents of the Woodlands and local activists (including me), Eckstein had the nerve to tell the residents that “there would be no free lunch.” He later repeated that phrase. Let’s review what happened. Many people who live in the Woodlands area of Connoquenessing Township had the quality of their water ruined after Marcellus Shale gas drilling commenced in the area. They were forced to live with all of the perils and irritations of living in an industrial zone. Almost none of the affected families got even a penny from this invasion. Thirty families now are forced to subsist on 20 to 25 gallons of water a week provided by a local church. These people are not living in luxury. The value of their homes has plummeted; their savings have been decimated. Many of them have developed health issues. They are not getting a free lunch; they have paid dearly. For Eckstein to suggest that a solution that forces residents of the Woodlands to pay to restore what was taken from them is, somehow, fair is cruel and callous. What is inexcusably brutal and clueless is to compare these people — victims of ecoterrorism perpetrated with the imprimatur of the state — with the despised “takers” vilified in the last election cycle. All these people want is to have what they had before. They want justice, not a lecture delivered by a badly misinformed scold. If Eckstein wants to find someone to give his free-lunch speech to, perhaps he should visit the criminals hiding in the corporate boardrooms of some of the oil and gas terrorists who have waged war in Butler County, and the traitors and collaborators in the government of the commonwealth.